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  • Writer's pictureAugust Sorenson

Continuing the Work: A Conversation with Calia Brencsons Van-Dyk

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

With three decades of experience in the industry—and this ranges from acting to producing, casting to coaching, and organizing branded events—Calia Brencsons-Van Dyk is one of the most sought-after professionals, both stateside and abroad.

Last weekend, on a cozy Saturday morning in Berlin, Calia and I ‘Zoomed in’ to one another’s respective flats. Our discussion was at times sentimental, at times altruistic, and at all times informative. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Tell me a little bit about your career and things as of late.

I started up a production company in the United States many moons ago, and I moved to England about four years ago. With COVID and me now being based predominantly in the UK, I decided to focus on England. Of course, the timing was just perfect with Brexit, I mean, who didn’t want to start a company in the UK with Brexit… although the entertainment and production world in the UK is still prospering because the UK is a wonderful place to produce whether it’s film or theatre. The barriers are a lot lower in the UK than in the US, so you can really test at a more affordable cost. I’ve been working as a fixer here in the UK. If a production company comes in, I can help with permits and the setup… and that’s been great.

I graduated from The Academy in ’93, gosh, a long time, and did about 40 productions in New York before going into developmental theatre at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center for a while. I worked in George White’s office for a while. The O’Neill is a pretty great place to get your feet wet after college. It was an incredible time, I was there when August Wilson was showcasing Seven Guitars, and some really fun work was happening. After I left the O’Neill, I wanted to perform some more, so I went to the National Dance Institute… much like many of us who tread those stages, I was taking rehearsals at 1 o’clock in the morning and working full-time and doing whatever I could to be onstage. Eventually, you have to start paying bills, so I took a bunch of jobs and finally landed at Martha Stewart. One of the great things about working there was that the studio was close to The Academy, so I could recruit some of the students there to work as carpenters. At the time, I was also head of the Alumni Association at The Academy, which was a great way to keep in touch and get students part-time employment who had that skillset… I learned too that the best business school in the world is the acting school. You learn how to put an entire production together from beginning to end, how to treat people how you want to be treated, and to listen, to listen.

And how did The Academy lead you on this path? It seems to me that your career moved organically from one thing to the next, and I wonder how The Academy fits into all of this.

The Academy teaches so many life lessons, some that you don’t realize at the time, and yes, it definitely moved organically in many ways. I learned to say “yes,” to opportunities, but I also learned to say “no.” It’s one of the toughest lessons, learning to weigh the opportunity of being involved in something against not being involved.

What’s the thing that makes you say “no?” to something? Content, people, project?

Content emphatically. There are some things I just don’t want my name to be affiliated with—I’m not going to do a horror film, it’s just not me. I pretty much have a niche where I work on food, lifestyle, positivity, mentoring, and that stuff. It’s what I enjoy, and I don’t want to go against nature… if I go against myself, I won’t produce a good result. There are some things, some projects, that have come across my desk where I say, “Oh yeah, cool!” and others where I think, “Oh no, not for me, thanks!”

What might you say about taking the road less traveled? I moved over to Europe to study here, but I miss acting… it’s sometimes so frustrating not to be working on my craft more often.

It will be like that. There will be times when you’re sitting in the audience of a show, and tears will stream down your face because it isn’t you up there, because you were made to do this. But today, there are so many opportunities that you don’t need to be in the room to make connections. So when you say you took the road less traveled and now wonder where the heck you are… you’re opening doors that so many other American actors don’t have. You are now becoming a multilingual actor, which is pretty cool. There are opportunities to act in English in Europe because of how many American films are filmed here.

I’m interested in what fuels you.

My family fuels me… and money fuels me [chuckles]. Really, it’s hard to work on something that doesn’t make your socks go up and down, so, for me, it’s the pride in the work I’m doing that’s really important. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’ve tried working in other industries, but there’s something about making the work yours and about really believing in it that speaks to me. It’s about quality and making something really interesting and something really worthwhile, something viewers will learn from and appreciate. I believe in appreciating beauty. I’m a thinker, and I need a project that’s going to make me think about the world I’m living in.

What’s next, and where can people find you?

One of the projects I’m hoping to get off the ground is one that is not selfish. It’s a project that would not only be educational but would be artistic and would give back a little. I’ve always wanted to give back, and I’ve always loved helping others get their foot in the door.

I’m easy to find! You can find me on my website or on Instagram.


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